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Mon 11 Jul 2011 08:57 PM

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FIFA's pledge after Qatar whistleblower u-turn

Football's governing body says it will always stand by officials when no evidence backs up allegations

FIFA's pledge after Qatar whistleblower u-turn

Football’s governing body said
on Monday it will back board members accused of corruption unless it gets
proof of wrongdoing after an ex-worker from Qatar’s successful 2022
World Cup bid retracted claims that the country bribed officials.

FIFA
confirmed receiving an e-mail from Phaedra Almajid, who was replaced as
Qatar’s international media officer partway through the process that
ended with FIFA choosing it over rivals including the US and
Australia.

“When only
allegations are made and no evidence is given, FIFA always stands firmly
by its members,” FIFA said in a statement on Monday.

Almajid had said
African Football Confederation president Issa Hayatou, Ivory Coast FIFA
member Jacques Anouma and Nigeria’s suspended official Amos Adamu were
paid $1.5 million to vote for Qatar. They’ve denied wrongdoing and she
apologized to them.

In a
statement released on Sunday Almajid, a US citizen, said she “lied
about all facts concerning the behavior and practice of the Qatar 2022
Bid” and the accusations “were in full a fabrication on my behalf.”

Qatar’s
organising committee hasn’t commented on Almajid’s apology. Almajid
pulled out of a planned meeting with FIFA in May after the Zurich-based
organization refused to agree to demands including “an unlimited witness
protection program.”

The claims
were reported by the Sunday Times newspaper and also presented to UK
lawmakers, who used it in writing a report about the World Cup bidding
process. England finished last of four bidders for the 2018 event while
FIFA faced graft allegations.

Two of FIFA’s 24-member executive
committee, Adamu and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti, were suspended after an
internal inquiry heard evidence of vote-buying.

Qatar, whose
bid was fueled by the billions of dollars it generates as the world’s
biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas, was a surprise winner of the
December 2 ballot. It’s proposing to stage the 32-team competition in 12
stadiums in an area smaller than Connecticut, the US’s third-smallest
state.

The bid also promised to develop air-cooling technology to
protect players and fans from the effects of temperatures that can get
higher than 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).

FIFA
struggled with graft accusations surrounding the World Cup and its
presidential election. June’s vote ended with President Sepp Blatter
winning a fourth term.

His only challenger, Mohamed Bin Hammam of Qatar,
who headed Asia’s soccer federation, was suspended after claims he paid
$40,000 to voters in the Caribbean to choose him. He denies the
allegations.

FIFA last
month said its general secretary Jerome Valcke wouldn’t face an internal
probe after a private e-mail he sent that said Qatar “bought” the World
Cup was made public. He said he meant Qataris used funds to “heavily
promote their bid all around the world in a very efficient manner.”

In her statement Almajid said her retraction had nothing to do with Qatar’s bid committee.

“I also wish
to state that the decision to make this admission is entirely my own,”
she said. “I have not been subject to any form of pressure or been
offered any financial inducement to do so.”

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